Reston Town Center Christmas Tree Lighting & Sing-Along with Reston Chorale

Reston Town Center Christmas Tree Lighting & Sing-Along with Reston Chorale
Photo by Modern Reston

Thursday, January 22, 2015

County Audit Forms for FOL Voluntary, Fairfax Library Advocates

This is re-posted from the Fairfax Library Adovcates blog.

Subject: Audit forms voluntary  

Summary:  County officials confirm that completion of the recently distributed audit forms, or CSAs, is strictly voluntary.  Individual groups may complete them in detail, send in an alternate document such as a 990, or ignore them.  It was also noted a version of the CSA meant for County offices was inadvertently included in the letter sent to Friends’ groups and can be ignored.   End Summary
 
A group of the Fairfax Library Advocates, accompanied by an attorney providing pro bono assistance, met with County officials Wednesday afternoon, following up on the earlier meeting of January 9, 2015.
 
As is standard practice, the Advocates emphasized they do not speak for or represent anyone other than themselves. 
 
The purpose of the meeting was to try to rectify discrepancies between statements made by senior County officials and the materials distributed to various groups.   In pursuit of this, the conversation began with an attempt to clarify the origin of the audit request.   It has been repeatedly acknowledged by all parties that the Fairfax County Federation of Citizens Associations did not request an audit of the Friends' accounts.   Further, a previous assertion that a homeowner’s group asked for the audit has no merit.  There have been no allegations of impropriety by any Friends group.  From discussions with members of concerned groups it appears the request did not originate with the Board of Supervisors, the Board of Trustees, Branch Managers or staff, the Board Auditor’s office, the media, or any outside group.  A very limited number of possible originating offices remain, but the officials declined comment.  The officials made it clear that they could not speak to anything other than the details of the CSA itself and that the auditor was simply doing as required by the BOS Resolution.
 
On the timing of the request, there is no indication that a review of Friends’ assets and operations was contemplated until after the Federation made its request for an audit of the Library Administration’s System Gift Fund. 
 
Moving to the audit itself, the Auditor’s office representatives stated they developed the Control Self Assessments (CSAs) in response to instructions from the Board of Supervisors in the Board Minutes of December 2, 2014.   The Advocates noted that set of Board Minutes was drafted under the false assumption that the Federation had requested the Friends be audited and the entire premise of the request was thus in question.  The Auditors replied they worked with the instructions they were given.  The Advocates accepted that the Auditor’s office had to follow orders but asked when the Board Minutes would be corrected and if this would then obviate subsequent instructions.  This question was outside the purview of the County participants and it was agreed this would be better addressed to the Board of Supervisors.
 
The Auditors noted at this point that two versions of the CSA, one for the Friends and a different one for County offices, had inadvertently been sent out together.   Only the first version, marked for “FOL” need be considered.  
 
The Advocates wondered under what authority the County was auditing independent 501 (c) 3 organizations.  They noted Chairman Bulova had written Acting Advocates Chairman Hays on October 31, 2014 and stated, “The Friends accounts, to my knowledge, are not subject to county audits  since they are separate (non-county) non-profits.”   The officials then stated that completion of the forms was strictly voluntary and thus no authority was needed.  This surprised the Advocates present, who stated the letter sent gave the strong impression that the County was insisting on these forms being completed.   The County officials repeated that the process was voluntary.  When asked if that meant any given Friends group could choose to fill out the form in exhaustive detail, choose to send in only documents already prepared for other purposes like a 990, choose to answer N/A to everything, or choose to ignore the request entirely the answer was yes.
 
This led to a discussion of what was the purpose of the CSAs.  The Auditor explained there were several ways he could have approached satisfying the Supervisors’ request including a full audit but he settled on the CSA approach as he felt it likely to be the easiest and the most useful.   One goal was to better understand and track funds flowing into and out of the Library Administration’s gift fund.  
 
When it became evident not everyone was familiar with the system used to collect and account for funds that go to the gift fund, one of the Advocates with direct and extensive knowledge of this explained the process.  Briefly, through the new Comprise system the County collects all monies and has complete control of the entire process.  The Friends generally have no knowledge of what has been collected until the County returns that portion which goes to the Friends.   Given the County controls 100% of this process, what could the Friends usefully add?  The Auditor contended that additional information was always helpful and served to verify other accounts.  
 
A second use of the CSAs is to determine best practices that can then be shared with other groups.   In response to this it was noted many Friends groups already share information and ideas and there were regular Forums that also served this purpose.  
 
Meanwhile, all the focus on an audit of the Friends has taken attention away from the request the Federation actually did make in this area, a full audit of the Library Administration’s Gift Fund.   During the January 9th meeting with Chairman Bulova, the Library Administrators agreed to provide information beginning with copies of detailed quarterly reports on the uses of the Fund already produced and distributed to Branch Managers.  These (dating back at least five years) have not yet been received.  
 
The County officials were gracious with their time and professionally presented their reasoning for their actions.  
 
The Advocates concluded by noting the voluntary aspect of the CSA was unclear to many people as was the continued inaccurate reference to the CSAs being developed in response to a Federation request.  The Advocates suggested the County clarify these two points and perhaps provide additional justification for their remaining requests in a follow-up letter.  
 
Comment – the County made no claim to any right to insist the Friends provide information on anything other than a voluntary basis.   It is our opinion they correctly understand this as there is no such right.  The proposed new MOU is yet to be seen, and may assert some claim in this area, but the County officials said they have no knowledge of what may or may not be in the MOU as this rests with the Trustees.  
 
Every Friends Group is, of course, free to take any action it sees fit with respect to the CSAs.   A variety of responses can probably be expected.  The auditor did say that he had received phone calls from several Friends’ groups asking questions. The meeting ended with a reaffirmation of a desire to work collaboratively on issues of common concern and the additional clarifications received here help in that regard. 

Rescue Reston: Army of Supporters Overflows Auditorium, January 22, 2015

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A grassroots organization dedicated to preserving Reston's open space
S.O.S. (Save Open Space)

Army of Supporters Overflows Auditorium

Estimates of 475-500 supporters
THANK YOU for Answering the Call !!
 
 
The yellow/green sea of support yesterday was beyond our expectations! Close to 500 Rescue Reston supporters arrived at the beginning of the hearing, with about 150 staying until the end, 5 hours later. A smaller but key piece of the audience was news reporters. Why were they there? Because so many of YOU were there. They "got it" that this IS a big story, and that it's of interest to far more than just the land owners who surround the golf course itself.
 
What should we do now? Stay tuned. Additional battle plans being drawn . . .

All of our speakers made great points, and the BZA does record their meetings. We'll let you know when it becomes available. In the meantime, enjoy Rescue Reston's co-founder John Pinkman's message: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wCP8MXmybpo.

And how about our (Rescue Reston's) attorney, Randy Greehan of Greehan,Taves, Pandak & Stoner? He was instrumental in helping find "the missing files" and his documentation was often referred to throughout the hearing. YOUR financial contributions made this possible. Rescue Reston is a 501(c)(4).
 
I will end with a list of news coverage. If you see others, please alert me or post on www.facebook.com/RescueReston.
 
Washington Post reporter Antonio Olivo will have a story in Friday morning's print edition. Previous story at 
 
WUSA9 - aired live last night:
 
NBC4 - aired a segment but I cannot find online. They also covered our press conference & showed a clip on TV but no response to my request for an online source!
 
 
Reston Connection - article coming next week
 
 
 
Washington Business Journal - http://www.bizjournals.com/washington/morning_call/2015/01/golf-course-owners-take-another-swing-at-building.html

Again, job well done and let's keep the signs out and the pressure on!

Connie Hartke & the Rescue Reston Board of Directors
John Pinkman, David Burns, Lisa White, Robin Hogan, Ray Wedell, Joe Deninger
Board of Zoning Appeals Hearing - every seat filled with supporters

Key Upcoming Dates

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

County additional documents & filings due to BZA


Wednesday, April 15, 2015 
Board of Zoning Appeals announces its ruling
no public comments - announcement only

Support our County Zoning Administrator

The online petition (http://bit.ly/RescueReston) continues. Share with someone who hasn't signed yet. This documentation is important now and in the future. We have the support of today's Board of Supervisors, but what about the next election, or the one after that?





No wonder our Library collection is shrinking: Materials acquisition has plummeted for more than a decade..

Budget information provided by the Fairfax County Public Library (FCPL) shows that amount devoted to buying new materials--books, magazines, e-books, databases, etc.--has shrunk dramatically since FY 2000, and even more steeply since the peak year of FY 2006.  Overall, the materials budget has shrunk by nearly half since FY 2000 while the county's total General Fund expenditures (basically operating expenditures that exclude capital investments) have increased by 83% over the same timeframe.

Maybe more importantly, real spending per capita--recognizing both the increase in our county population and the decreased value of the dollar--has shrunk by nearly two-thirds.

The library's Collection Overview corroborates the decline in materials acquisitions.  In FY 2006 (the earliest year for which we have information), the library acquired 368,225 items.  Last fiscal year, the library acquired only 131,110 items--a 64% cut in materials acquisitions.  At a 62% reduction, the percentage cut in number of items acquired is almost identical to the cut in the materials budget from FY 2006 to FY 2014.

It is no wonder, then, that the number of items in the library materials collection has shrunk by 440,000 items through FY 2013 (still no data publicly available on FY 2014 which ended last June), especially in the face of the library's hyper-aggressive culling policies and practices.


VIDEO: Reston golf course at risk of redevelopment, WUSA9, January 21, 2015




WUSA9 carried this story on its 6PM news broadcast last evening.  Click here to see the accompanying article.

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Rescue Reston Statement Regarding the Outcome of Today’s Board of Zoning Appeals Hearing


Statement Regarding the Outcome of Today’s Board of Zoning Appeals Hearing 


RE: RN GOLF MANAGEMENT, LLC, application #A 2012-HM-020 under sect(s). 18-301 of the Zoning Ordinance.

David Burns, Board Member & VP Legal Affairs: “Rescue Reston is optimistic that after the BZA has fully considered the record presented at today’s hearing it will uphold the decision of the Zoning Administrator to maintain the Reston National Golf Course as open space. We thank the supporters who attended the hearing to help present the community’s views as well as over 5,300 petitioners. We also thank the Reston Association for fighting on behalf of its members for open space. Our members look forward to a positive outcome, and to being able to continue to enjoy the golf course as an integral part of our community.”

For Interviews CONTACT:
  • Connie Hartke, President, Rescue Reston 571-205-8874, conniehartke@gmail.com
  • David Burns, VP – Legal Affairs, Rescue Reston 703-581-5280, david@rescuereston.org

UPDATED: Massive Reston turnout at the Reston National Golf Course BZA hearing.

TWO UPDATES:  

UPDATE #1 (2:45PM):  The BZA voted to defer a decision on the appeal until April 15, 2015, subject to all additional materials requested being available by April1.   

UPDATE #2 (4:10PM):  RestonNow has a good overview of the extensive testimony at today's hearing.

The auditorium was filled with neon yellow Rescue Reston t-shirts and many more had to sit in the lobby area and watch the proceedings on TV when the hearing began at 9:00 AM this morning . . . and it is still continuing at 1:50 PM!

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Books Every Library Should Have? Annoyed Librarian, Library Journal, January 19, 2015

The subject post has created a very active dialogue on what should be in a library's collection and how long.  We provide an excerpt from the post and this link to it where you can read and contribute your own comments. 
Concerned citizens in Fairfax County, VA are protesting as librarians rapidly shrink the book collection. Here are some numbers from the article:
The library’s total collection has decreased from around 2.75 million items in 2004 to 2.4 million items in 2013, a drop of about 350,000 books, magazines and online materials, even as Fairfax added two new branches and electronic items to its system. The number of printed items, mostly books, has dropped by about 440,000 in that time, replaced by about 100,000 online items and e-books. If a book hasn’t been checked out for two years, Fairfax library officials review it for possible elimination in order to keep the collection fresh…
440,000 books gone, which even with the addition of “online items and e-books” still means a cut of 340,000 titles. The children’s sections seem to be the worst:
The number of children’s books in Fairfax’s 22 branches has also plummeted, particularly outraging the activists. The library had about 1 million children’s books in 2004 and about 885,000 in 2013, an 11 percent cut. Shelves in the children’s areas of some of the county’s largest libraries, such as Reston and Fairfax City, are notably empty.
I’ve criticized various groups of protesters for expecting libraries to keep everything, even with finite space, but when the shelves are going empty, space isn’t finite. Empty shelves don’t look good in a library.
Do most public libraries weed books that haven’t circulated for more than two years regardless of the book? That policy seems a little draconian to me, if something can be just a little draconian. The rationale is provided by the director:
“We’re not an archive,” Clay said. “We want to keep a vibrant, helpful, responsive collection. It’s part of what librarians do.”
So if any books that haven’t circulated for a mere two years are in a library with plenty of shelf space, that means the library is an archive? Seems questionable to me. . . .
Click here and read the rest--and offer your own observation on the post and the state of Fairfax County's public library system.